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Australia challenged on climate change goals

The World Today - Tuesday, 9 December , 2008 12:42:00

ELEANOR HALL: Ten thousand people have descended on the small Polish town of Poznan for the UN
climate change conference.

But some spectators say it has been uninspiring and dogged by infighting.

A Scandinavian think-tank is calling on Australia to take a leading role at the conference, when
the Climate Change Minister, Penny Wong, arrives today.

And Council member and former Australian of the Year, Tim Flannery, says he wants Australia to
adopt the sort of ambitious targets mooted by US President-elect Barack Obama.

Rachael Brown compiled this report.

RACHAEL BROWN: The UN climate change conference at Poznan is seen as the mid-road marker, between
last December's talks in Bali and the global agreement hoped for at next year's conference in
Copenhagen.

TIM FLANNERY: Everyone seems to be waiting and looking at everyone else wondering who's going to
jump into the pool first, that plus the last days of the Bush presidency are all combining to make
this a less than inspiring meeting.

RACHAEL BROWN: Professor Tim Flannery, the chairman of the Copenhagen Climate Council, is in Poland
presenting its aspirations for next year's conference.

He says so far the current UN conference has been plagued by European power negotiations.

TIM FLANNERY: It's partly due to the cycles of the European Parliament and the way they work, but
also due to the difficulties that the negotiations are facing. Poland for example is really holding
out against any sort of imposition on it. It argues that it already faces energy poverty and that
any attempt to say put a price on carbon will have a detrimental impact on it.

RACHAEL BROWN: Professor Flannery says Australia needs to take a much greater leadership role in
the talks, starting with a steeper emissions reduction target than the one the Federal Government
is expected to announce, of between five and 15 per cent by 2020.

TIM FLANNERY: There is very little gain in going with the herd if that results in a treaty that
costs us the Great Barrier Reef and costs us most of our biodiversity in the Kakadu wetlands and so
forth.

RACHAEL BROWN: He wants Australia to follow the lead of the US.

TIM FLANNERY: If you calibrate that against what President-elect Obama's position is which is 20
per cent below the 1990 levels by 2020 and then 80 per cent below that by 2050. So the sort of
targets that we're juggling with are hardly leadership position targets. The Europeans are looking
at you know, perhaps 20 per cent below to 30 per cent below if other people join them.

RACHAEL BROWN: And he wants Australia's Climate Change Minister Penny Wong, to use this week's
conference as a chance to step up.

TIM FLANNERY: I hope that Penny takes away from this a sense that the world needs leadership. These
negotiations are not going as smoothly as we would hope. We have so little leadership in our modern
political world you could come away from this meeting very dismayed if you weren't a very
determined sort of person.

I hope Penny's determined, I hope she can come in there and see the need for her to have a relish
for change, to look forward to actually transforming our economy and making it cleaner and more
efficient.

RACHAEL BROWN: Yesterday, Australia's advisor on climate change, Professor Ross Garnaut, warned
developed nations shouldn't simply rely on exemplary targets to inspire countries like China and
India to fall into line.

But Professor Flannery says he's seen lots of signs that China is prepared to engage.

ROSS GARNAUT: That's less true of India, but certainly in the case of China we're seeing real
interest in this and the Copenhagen Climate Council was in Beijing just three weeks ago meeting
with senior politicians in China and also we've seen new bureaucrats. All of the indications we had
whether China would be engaging at some level at Cop15 in Copenhagen.

RACHAEL BROWN: And he says China is starting to see a new world of economic opportunity opening up
in the wake of a successful treaty.

ROSS GARNAUT: There are a number of industries that are just poised to make absolute windfall
profits should a successful treaty be negotiated. One of them is Doctor Chi's Suntech solar panel
business. He's already producing panels which generate electricity at the cost of about 12 cents a
kilowatt hour. So once you get solar power becoming so cheap it's a real game changer, so I think
that there are a lot of temptations for the Chinese as well, it's not just liabilities.

RACHAEL BROWN: Professor Flannery says while it's too to tell if next year's Copenhagen conference
will provide an effective treaty, he says he's watching a slow alignment of forces that will give
the planet its best shot.

ROSS GARNAUT: I'm optimistic because resistance is a suicidal tactic, you know we understand that
this is a very, very serious problem. This round of negotiations is likely to be our last chance as
a species to deal with the problem. I can't say I'm optimistic but I'm just bloody determined that
at least I'm going to give it my best shot to make sure that that is understood and I do what I can
to make sure that we get an effective treaty.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Professor Tim Flannery from the Copenhagen Climate Council, ending that report
by Rachael Brown